A useful gadget for tracking your food and exercise. Note it tracks salt and fat consumption but not cholesterol
This gadget is intended for joggers, but is an easy way to measure and pace both walking and jogging outdoors
Nutrition Information Data Websites
In order to make smart choices on what to eat, you need hard data on the options. In the US and many other countries, salt and fat labeling is required on packaged food products. But LS/LF products are hard to find and few and far between in main stream stores. Picking up and turning over every package quickly becomes dull and tries the patience of family members. So until stores go to more explicit labeling schemes, like Trader Joe's is implementing now, web-bases databases are a useful tool. Some of these also include data from national restaurant chains. I have also included websites for national chains that contain nutrition data for their menus. I can not independently verify the accuracy of the data that is linked here but have not seen any glaring errors.
Several of these sites were created for diabetics but contain salt and cholesterol information of value to the LS/LF community.
Most of these sites base their information on the FDA-required nutrition label for packaged foods.
First, the American Heart Association has useful information on their Delicious Decision website on how to read nutrition labeling information. (Note that AHA does not seem to recognize that most main stream processed foods are either low in salt or low in fat, but not both. This AHA website emphasizes low fat issues and gives little attention to low salt issues.)
The data sites below organize their information in different ways. So depending upon what your question is, one may be simpler than the other to use. Unless stated otherwise, none allow direct search for LS/LF items.
About.com's Calorie Count web site ("Nutritional details for 70,700+ foods") has nutrition label information on a huge number of widely distributed products, national restaurant chains, and even recipes. You can even get the nutrition information on roasted racoon. The information is organized by both brand name and type of food.
Coheso, Inc. is mainly a supplier to the diabetes support market, but offers a website with detailed nutrition information on more than 35,000 food products and 250 restaurants. Oddly, the food manufacturers are alphabetized in the same list as the restaurant names. The food item information is organized only by brand name.
Calorie Counter has an innovative entry system that lets one find comparative information on a given type of product. The 8,000 data entries comes from the USDA National Nutrient Database but are easier to deal with here. Information is displayed in FDA nutrition label format as well as supplemental data on other nutrients. You can ask it to sort items by fat or salt content, although at present the salt content is not displayed immediately - you have to click on each item to get it.
The DailyPlate seems to be mainly intended for weight loss dieters but claims nutrition information on "more than 354,600 foods for calorie counts, total carbs, fat, protein -- or any other nutrition facts!" Free registration is needed for some of the features that include logging your food consumption, but searching the data base for nutrition does not require registration.
FatCalories.com has "nutrition" information on 12 fast food chains: Arby's, Burger King, Chick-Fil-A, Dairy Queen, Hardee's, Jack in the Box, KFC, McDonald's, Sonic, Subway, Taco Bell, and Wendy's. The data is sorted by chain and then you can request menu items to be sorted by: Fat calories, total calories, % calories from fat, total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, carbohydrates, fiber and protein. Thus, you can ask for the minimum cholesterol items on either McDonald's or KFC's menu. However, you have to ask about salt and fat separately and you will be disappointed on the options that result.
The USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference is almost certainly too detailed for general use. But it is good to know it is there. It has information on many more ingredients than the usual nutrition label and covers both generic food types, e.g. "green beans", and processed foods. However, it appears to have information on fewer brands of packaged food than the other sources here, probably because so much detailed analysis is needed for each entry here.
DietFacts has nutrition information on at least some menu items from 449 restaurant chains (at last count), more than any of the other sites, and on more than 44,000 items. Data is sorted only by brand name. (This is the only source I have found so far for restaurant information on Legal Seafoods and Chipotle, so they are pretty thorough!)
A Calorie Counter has an interesting approach in comparing menu items at different fast food restaurants. While there is data on sodium, total fat, and saturated fat, there is no data on cholesterol. Information is sorted by menu item, e.g. hamburger. You can sort the various chains' menu tiems in a given class by sodium, calories, etc.. Who knew that Hardee's Monster Thickburger has a record setting 2770 mg of sodium and 1420 calories!
Yum, Inc, the parent company of A&W, KFC, Long John Silver, and Taco Bell may not have the most nutritious foods in their restaurants, but they certainly have the best nutrition web sites of any chain. For each chain they own they offer a printable nutrition guide listing all menu items and they offer a unique "nutrion calculator" that lets you add up the nutrition data for all your courses so you can try to balance your whole meal. Note, however, that the menu doesn't give you much to work with and even the Taco Bell low fat "Fresco style" seems to be loaded with salt. But this format is innovative and should be followed by other restaurants.
Lowsaltfoods.com has a page with a list of salt content of many fast food chain menu items, but does not give fat information.
If you are addicted to Starbucks for your caffeine jolt, their calculator will help you pick the latte with the right sodium and fat content for your needs.
Feel free to contact me with comments and suggestions: